Can Paul Molitor help the Twins’ base running? ‘He’s like an encyclopedia of baseball’

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There’s a plaque in the storage at Brooks Lee’s household house in California of a former participant who represents every thing the Twins’ 2022 first-rounder needs to change into. Not solely was the participant an elite hitter, however his meticulous method on the base paths helped him change into one of seven gamers in baseball historical past to complete with 3,000 hits and 500 stolen bases.

When Lee found earlier this week that Corridor of Famer Paul Molitor would function as a base-running teacher at Twins spring coaching, he acquired excited. Solely seven months into his professional profession, that is already the second time Lee, the son of a university coach who idolized Molitor, is working with him in particular person.

At the request of Twins supervisor Rocco Baldelli, Molitor returned to Twins big-league camp this week to help the membership enhance its base working. That is Molitor’s first time working with Twins large leaguers in Fort Myers since he was fired as the group’s supervisor after the 2018 season. Although Molitor was a little bit tentative at first, Lee mentioned the native legend hasn’t been afraid to voice his opinion.

“He’s like an encyclopedia of baseball,” Lee mentioned. “Nearly each time, he has one thing to say.”

In the case of working the bases, Molitor ought to be opinionated. His aggressive nature persistently made him one of the finest base runners in the majors throughout a 21-year profession.

He was profitable in 504 of 635 stolen-base makes an attempt, his 79.3 p.c success fee being roughly 11 p.c higher than the relaxation of the league.

However the greater focus in Twins camp is predicated round Molitor’s means to take an further 90 ft.

Even after having knee surgical procedure in 1981 and struggling a sequence of hamstring accidents, Molitor boasted an extra-base-taken share of 48 in contrast with the league fee of 44, together with a whopping 67 p.c in 1984. Solely six occasions in his profession did Molitor’s XBT fee fall beneath 44, and 5 of these cases occurred after he turned 32.

“There’s in all probability nobody higher to speak about base working,” Baldelli mentioned.

Whereas he’s acquainted with many of the gamers and most of the coaches, Molitor nonetheless wasn’t fairly snug with the state of affairs till after he spoke with Baldelli.

As half of the group’s inward look following final season’s collapse, the Twins knew they wanted enchancment on the bases. The group made 52 outs on the bases in 2022, 4 above the league common and tied for sixth-worst in the majors.

Figuring out baseball additionally applied guidelines meant to extend exercise on the bases, Baldelli recognized fixing the group’s station-to-station working as a main focus early in the offseason. To help, Baldelli needed to include Molitor.

The 2 mentioned the matter after the season and reconvened final month at TwinsFest to set issues up.

“(Baldelli) even talked about again then, the sport is altering and we wish to run the bases higher and extra aggressively,” Molitor mentioned. “We had a pleasant lengthy discuss. … I used to be a little bit tentative since you’re on the outdoors and also you respect the coaches.”

However Molitor acquired extra snug with the state of affairs when he realized how dedicated Baldelli meant to be. This wouldn’t be a subject talked about at first after which glossed over. The Twins have included base-running drills day by day throughout their first week in camp.

“He’s making an attempt to make it a foundational level right here early in camp that he needs to see extra aggressive base working and the little issues, working a little bit tougher out of the field and on the lookout for further bases and other ways guys can try this and being ready,” Molitor mentioned. “He requested me my opinion on some issues and I share and we form of commute on how we wish to train it. That’s what we’ve carried out right here the final couple of days.

“We’re not going to be there all day there doing it, however we’re going to do one thing day by day and we’re going to keep it up. To make it some extent of emphasis, you’ve acquired to again it up with the work you’re going to ask them to do.”

#MNTwins engaged on the security squeeze.

— DanHayesMLB (@DanHayesMLB) February 21, 2023

Although Baldelli and bench coach Jayce Tingler are main the drills, Molitor could be very hands-on. He’s taking part in an energetic function in every session, disseminating info when wanted.

The concept is to hammer house that the Twins can’t at all times depend on the lengthy ball to generate offense and have to seek out alternate methods to attain. Molitor appreciates how the group is making an attempt to adapt and needed to help.

“Not yearly goes to be 2019,” Molitor mentioned. “You used to speak about base working in phrases of danger and reward. For some time there, it turned simply danger. … However with the modifications and personnel, you form of resolve to create an id. We noticed Cleveland’s id and the way it modified all through final yr. They used that facet of the sport to deepen their group collectively and it was spectacular.”

Most of the gamers in camp are already acquainted with Molitor’s spectacular physique of work; they’ve both performed underneath him or acquired instruction in the minors. However Tingler nonetheless rolled out the resume when he launched Molitor earlier than the group held its first full-squad exercise on Monday.

Since then, the Twins have centered on every thing from taking an further base on a success to secondary results in engaged on tips on how to execute a security squeeze. All of it’s meant to create a powerful basis to depend on throughout the season.

“I really feel like we’ve carried out a extremely good job of being attentive to the particulars,” outfielder Michael A. Taylor mentioned. “We’re fortunate to have so many guys with nice expertise round us that we will lean on and study from.”

Lee, of course, didn’t want a refresher on Molitor. He additionally labored with Molitor at a minor-league mini-camp in November.

Having lately exited the faculty sport, which is usually far more aggressive on the bases, Lee understands how essential of an facet it may be. Between that and having studied the Corridor of Famer, Lee listens intently each time Molitor or the others converse.

“It’s tremendous essential,” Lee mentioned. “If you’re on prime of it and also you’re not lazy, it’s what makes a championship-caliber group. All people performs like a university group throughout the playoffs, however not all people does it in the common season.

“(Molitor) has his bits and items. He lets the major guys discuss after which if he has one thing to say, he’ll positively say one thing.”

(High photograph of Paul Molitor: Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins)

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